Why Dragon Age: Origins was SO GOOD?

Dragon Age: Origins is a top RPG game where you become a hero fighting a big threat in your land. It’s known for great stories, choices that matter, and interesting friends you make along the way.

It’s highly praised and considered a must-play game with quality RPG design, but why so?

Things That Make Dragon Age: Origins Infinitely Replayable

BioWare's Classic RPG Scheme

No matter the game this company releases , they have a similar approach to gameplay and plot (in a good way). In the BioWare’s games you usually get a quest to assemble a key group or items to fight evil.

So, in Dragon Age: Origins, players gather armies through ancient treaties. Similarly, Mass Effect 3 focuses on building alliances, while in Mass Effect 2, you must gather a team, and so on – it is mostly the same, but somehow unique every time. 

BioWare's video RPG Dragon Age Origins, dark fantasy RPG video game

A brief game’s history

The genesis of Dragon Age: Origins can be traced back to 2002 when BioWare began work on a demo called Chronicle, aimed at being a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate. This initial phase laid down the groundwork for what would become a deeply immersive high fantasy world, later known as Thedas. The game’s development was marked by a desire to return to the roots of classic RPGs, blending intricate storytelling with strategic gameplay. The project aimed to blend and refine classic RPG elements into a new identity for BioWare, attracting fans of the genre with a mix of tactical combat and narrative depth familiar to veterans​.

David Gaider, one of the senior writers, played an important role in the conceptualization of Thedas, drawing inspiration from medieval Europe and the works of Tolkien and George RR Martin to create a setting that was both grim and politically complex. The game was initially shown at E3 2004, presenting its ambitious scope and party-based RPG mechanics reminiscent of Baldur’s Gate. Despite the early excitement, BioWare entered a period of silence to focus on refining the game’s mechanics, particularly the innovative Origins feature, which allowed players to choose between Origin Stories which would affect the story later on.

A significant turning point came when BioWare was acquired by Electronic Arts in 2007, which fortunately did not interfere with Dragon Age: Origins development, allowing the team to complete the project as envisioned.

The game’s complexity, from its dialogue choices to battle systems, required careful consideration to balance ambition with feasibility, leading to the strategic omission of certain features, such as multiplayer components like in Skyrim, to prioritize the game’s core single-player experience​​.

Dragon Age Origins video game ultimate edition, The Darkspawn Chronicles

The project saw its public re-introduction as Dragon Age: Origins in 2008, promising a rich story within the masterfully crafted world of Thedas and marking BioWare’s commitment to a console future alongside its PC origins. This decision introduced challenges in adapting the game’s interface and mechanics for console platforms, handled with the help of partnered studio Edge of Reality​.

Daniel Fedor, the lead technical artist for Dragon Age: Origins, shared intriguing “What-If” scenarios from the game’s development, highlighting potential features like multiplayer and dungeon-master modes that were considered. In an interview with TheGamer, he reflected on the significant impact of changing the game engine mid-development. Initially, Dragon Age: Origins was shown at E3 using a prototype built in the NeverWinter Nights engine called “Aurora Engine” which already supported features like multiplayer. However, the decision to switch to a new engine called “The Eclipse Engine” meant sacrificing these aspects. Fedor expressed curiosity about the game’s direction had they continued with the original engine, especially considering the success of The Witcher using the NeverWinter Nights engine. Despite the challenges and changes, Dragon Age: Origins launched successfully in 2009, laying the foundation for a beloved franchise now anticipating its fourth installment.

Early on, the Dragon Age was quite different from what we know today. Key writer David Gaider mentioned in an interview that the original game didn’t have Darkspawn or Grey Wardens. Mages were heavily persecuted, and using magic in cities was highly restricted (yes, they kept this part of the story). The game’s world and story changed a lot during development. For example, the villain Loghain was one of the first characters Gaider wrote about. Morrigan, known for her outsider status, became one of the game’s most iconic characters. Early ideas even allowed players to have a child with Morrigan, regardless of their character’s gender, but many complex ideas had to be simplified as the game developed.

There was also an early concept to frame the story as being told by an old woman, later revealed to be Morrigan – this trick is called “Frame narrative”, which is basically a story within a story, sometimes within another story – like in Witcher 2 and Witcher 3. This shows how the Dragon Age evolved from its initial concepts to the beloved game it is today.

The history of Dragon Age Origins video game

Origins

In Dragon Age: Origins, players can choose from six unique origin stories, plus an additional one in the expansion “Awakening”. The origins define their character’s background, social standing in Ferelden, and motivations for joining the Grey Wardens. These origins, available to any gender, depend on the character’s race and class, with the exception that dwarves cannot be mages because they can’t interact with the Fade. Humans can begin as a Noble, Mage, or Rogue, each with their own narrative. Dwarves may start as a Noble or a Commoner, and elves have options like City Elf or Dalish Elf.  Origins don’t affect a story all that much, they’re more of a variety bonus. Though you will encounter unique dialogues and scenes based on your origin. For example, as a Noble Dwarf, you may get a unique shield from one of your former servants. 

Unique origin stories of Dragon Age Origins video game, all characters Dragon Age Origins explained

Role Playing System

Specializations allow further customization, requiring unlocking through various methods and the expenditure of points at specific levels for activation. Reaching the maximum level of 25, equivalent to 186,000 XP, is challenging through standard play, with most achieving levels 18-22 after completing the game and side quests, or 21-25 with all DLCs. XP is earned through various activities like defeating enemies, completing quests, and discovering codex entries.

Experience is distributed unevenly among party members, with the active character receiving full XP and others slightly less. Leveling up grants characters attribute and talent points, with specific milestones for skill and specialization points.

Dragon Age: Origins offers four difficulty settings: Casual, Normal, Hard, and Nightmare, influencing enemy behavior, resistances, and friendly fire impacts without affecting XP gains. Designed with experienced players in mind, the Hard setting balances gameplay without providing any party or enemy advantages. Players can adjust the difficulty at any point, impacting AI strategy and enemy engagement tactics without changing their base stats.

Role-playing also includes dialogues. You’ll be having a lot of those. And they can actually affect a thing or two. Main story dialogues and choices will affect the story itself to a certain extent. Side quests and unnecessary dialogues will serve more of an “effect here and now” thing. You may play more of like a hero-altruist, helping everyone and not asking anything in return, or even more – declining any reward, or more like a scumbag. It depends on you. 

Four difficult role playing settings of Dragon Age Origins video game, the best RPG systems

Companions

The game features a diverse cast of companions, each with their own backstories and personalities. Relationships with these characters can influence the story, with possibilities for romance, conflict, and even betrayal if trust is broken. Companions also come with unique quests that, upon completion, enhance their abilities in battle.

Alistair

King Alistair I Theirin, born to King Maric and his elven lover Fiona, was raised outside the royal court by Arl Eamon, under the belief his mother was a servant. Trained as a templar, Alistair was recruited into the Grey Wardens before his final vows. He developed a close bond with Aedan Cousland during the Fifth Blight and eventually took the throne after his heritage was acknowledged at the Landsmeet, following the Archdemon Urthemiel’s defeat.

A noble and sometimes naive Grey Warden, Alistair’s loyalty makes him a crucial ally or even a king, depending on the player’s choices.

Dragon Age Origins character King Alistair I Theirin, best companions from Origins

Morrigan

Morrigan, raised in isolation by Flemeth, the Witch of the Wilds, has a deep distrust for humanity, instilled by her mother. She found comfort in nature and shapeshifting into animals of the Korcari Wilds. Despite attempts to understand human society, she eventually returned to the Wilds, deciding never to leave again. Morrigan also helped Flemeth fend off threats, often deceiving templars. Her father is suggested to be of Chasind origin.

A powerful witch with a mysterious background, Morrigan has a pragmatic view of the world’s challenges and can be an important part of the player’s strategy against the Darkspawn. A few fun facts: she speaks in rhymed verses. Like, all the time. Also, if you romance her as a dwarf, you’ll see an interesting scene. Their “adult interaction” would be like climbing a mountain. 

Dragon Age Origins character Witch of the Wilds Morrigan, Dragon Age companion tier list

Leliana

Leliana was drawn to Marjolaine’s (her past mentor) adventurous spirit, becoming close friends and learning archery from her. Marjolaine’s lessons in bardic arts – manipulation, stealth, and combat – were merely there, masquerading as entertainment. A bard with a complicated past, Leliana seeks redemption and can have great skills in espionage and stealth. There’s an entire DLC dedicated to her. While you may not even get her as a companion. Because you need to complete a quest first on one of the starting locations. 

Dragon Age Origins character Leliana, a legendary character Leliana from Dragon Age Origins

Other companions include:

  • Sten, a stoic Qunari warrior who committed a grave crime, can join your party or face death depending on your choices – you meet him in the same location as Leliana;
  • The Human Noble protagonist starts with Barkspawn, a loyal dog, highlighting the bond between a warrior and his faithful companion, while other origins encounter him a bit later with the ability to recruit him as well;
  • Oghren, a witty dwarf with a penchant for battle and ale, adds humor and depth;
  • Zevran Arainai –  an elf assassin sent to kill you, offering the choice of turning an enemy into an ally. Or you can finish him for good – your choice. 

Game World and Atmosphere

The Dragon Age series is set in Thedas – a continent inhabited by different cultures, nations, and races. This is a background of all political intrigue, ancient lore, and complex character dynamics, mostly in the continent’s southern territories. The series focuses on the exploration of such themes as power, faith, and the nature of heroism. The story is set in a world where different lands constantly battle each other and face threats from demons. The future of this world depends entirely on the choices you make. Most of the time the main struggle is to fight darkspawn – a race of humanoid creatures living underground. 

Thedas features many nations and peoples, with Ferelden, Orlais, and The Tevinter Imperium standing out. Ferelden, reminiscent of medieval England, is mostly a poor and dirty land governed by a monarchy. Orlais, mirroring Renaissance France, is sophisticated, with a ruling empress currently facing a civil war. The Tevinter Imperium, known for its power-driven mage rulers, is mostly famous for its use of dark magic and slavery. Thedas’s history is divided into eras like the “Ancient Age” and the “Storm Age”, each marking significant periods in its lore.

Improved Atmosphere at Dragon Age Origins, best Dragon Age Origins modes

A Bit About the World's Story

The Dragon Age marks the current era in Thedas, named for the unexpected return of dragons from presumed extinction. Their reappearance causes widespread devastation, yet is met with mixed reactions – some view it as an omen of glory, while others interpret it as significant changes. The age was initially to be called the Sun Age, but the dragon sightings led Divine Faustine II to declare it the Dragon Age.

A Blight in Dragon Age is an apocalyptic event marked by Darkspawn, corrupted beings, uncovering and corrupting an Old God, turning it into an Archdemon. This Archdemon then leads the Darkspawn in a massive invasion of the surface world. The Grey Wardens, a group of elite warriors, are the only ones who can effectively combat a Blight because of a unique ritual they undergo, which involves consuming Darkspawn’s blood. This ritual grants them the ability to sense the Archdemon and, critically, ensures that the Archdemon is truly killed. But Grey Wardens can sense all Darkspawn, not just the Archdemon. The ritual of consuming Darkspawn’s blood, while granting them unique abilities, also curses them with a shortened lifespan, driving them mad over time. To combat an Archdemon, a Warden must sacrifice themselves to ensure its true death. If anyone other than a Grey Warden delivers the final blow, the Archdemon’s soul merely transfers to another Darkspawn, eventually returning. 

Facing inevitable madness, a Warden may undertake the “Last Walk” into the Deep Roads, the Darkspawn-infested tunnels beneath Thedas (originally made by dwarves to connect their settlements under the ground), to die in battle rather than succumb to insanity, so no Warden dies peacefully in bed.  

Before the events of “Dragon Age: Origins”, the world had faced several Blights – apocalyptic invasions by the Darkspawn. The Grey Wardens were once revered but have since fallen out of favor, as many believe the threat of the Darkspawn is no more. This history sets the stage for the game, where the player, as a newly recruited Grey Warden, must rally the forces of a divided land against the resurgence of the Blight.

Storyline of Dragon Age Origins, the oral history of Dragon Age Origins

Main Story

The game centers around the player’s character, known as the Warden, who must unite the fractured kingdoms of Thedas to face a Blight. Along the journey, the Warden recruits allies and makes decisions affecting the political landscape. The story culminates in a final battle against the Archdemon to halt the Blight and determine the fate of Thedas, with the player’s choices throughout the game impacting the outcome. This journey is filled with moral dilemmas, challenging decisions, and the potential for significant sacrifices. The player’s choices deeply influence the story’s outcome, leading to multiple endings. This is true not just globally, but also locally – based on your choices, you may, for example, decide who would rule the dwarves, or you may choose between wood elves or werewolves – who would you help? Choices, choices, choices – the game is all about choices and they are far beyond “Telltale” level – because they really affect things. 

Dragon Age Origins main character Warden, Dragon Age Origins main plot

Variety

Dragon Age: Origins is known for its rich amount of choices that can affect the narrative and gameplay style. Players can approach problems with diplomacy or brute force, most of the time. Critical decisions can result in the player’s character dying, surviving, or even ascending to the throne after an epilogue. Everything depends on the player’s choice. For example, you may choose to be a total douchebag in dialogues with your companions. If you do – most (if not all) would just leave your party.

Under certain circumstances, you may face the final boss solo. Even though the final boss is rather weak, it won’t be a pleasant experience. So maybe you should come up with better boss-fight ideas.

Dragon Age: Origins is a highly praised RPG that captures players’ hearts with its rich story and meaningful choices. It stands out for making every player’s journey unique, filled with memorable characters and moral decisions. It’s the atmosphere. Dialogues, choices, colors, demons, plot twists, betrayals – Dragon Age Origins is not just merely an RPG game. It’s a living world. It reacts, it resists. It lives. But its life… it depends on you. You are the last Grey Warden. So be it. Save the world. Sacrifice yourself. Or find an opportunity to save yourself… but for what price?…